Do you have to spend to make money?

The title may sound like an oxymoron but freelancing is a different way to earn a living than working full time for a company. Unlike a full time employee, the freelancer has the responsibility to find solutions to develop and increase his/her business, find new clients and retain the existing ones. In a company, there is a division exclusively responsible for this. I have learned to invest in myself in order to grow my graphic design business. When I say investing, I mean time and money. In the long run, I got a good return on my investments. 

My first big investment was a good laptop so I was able to be more mobile and offer my clients to work at their offices. It paid off very well when I got a big contract with a new client requiring to bring my computer. Since then, many more clients who needed my services but did not have a free working station, were able to use my services. It is my responsibility to stay up-to-date with new technologies in my industry. I keep my equipment and software current to the industry standard. It can be costly but essential so my clients get the best service they can expect from me. 

I did spend some money on business cards and promotional items (post-it notes and notepads with my logo, email and phone number) to give to potential clients and make me look more professional. Having a website is a must for every business and freelancer. I made my own website to showcase my work. I’m lucky I can do it myself so it only cost me time. If you can’t do it yourself, hire someone to do it for you, it is worth the investment. 

Keep learning and improving your skills.

As a freelancer, I go through phases where I’m not that busy and it can be frustrating. It is the perfect time to keep busy learning new skills and improving the ones I don’t fully master. Taking time to improve on my skills and what I can offer to my clients is one of the most profitable decisions I ever make not to mention the self satisfaction it gave me.
In the long run, investing in yourself is worth the time and the risk, it will motivate you and will improve your future. You can find multiple options in continuing education online or in your community and it is worth looking into.

It is important to spend time to build up my client base. 

In my downtime, I take the opportunity to make myself more visible on my social networks. I write articles and post availability notifications on Linked-in and Instagram. I reach out to my regular clients to let them know that I’m available for new contracts. It’s important to promote yourself because your skills and your service offers won’t sell without assistance. You need to take action to secure that new contract.

See you in my next post

How to stay productive during a drought period

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Everybody, even the most experienced freelancer, in the gig economy will go through a dry spell or a shortage of work. There is no consistency in freelancing, that’s for sure and that’s why it is important to stay proactive and not let those slow periods get you down.

Stay motivated by putting this extra time to good use.

Stay connected, let your network know that you are available for new contracts. Be active on social media, write articles, follow other freelancers, influencers and potential clients on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

You can use your time in a productive way by taking online courses. It is a great way to master a new skill or improve an existing one and some courses allow you to become certified so you can increase your credibility. Online courses are more attractive to a up-and-coming freelance business and offer a more feasible scenario than going back to college.

Another way to stay productive is to catch up on your administrative tasks. Yes I know it’s not fun but essential for the smooth running of your freelance business.

Keep busy, it helps lift the spirit and you will find more creative ways to get new contracts.

See you in my next post…

The myth of freelance isolation

People ask me this question often when I tell them I’m a freelancer;

Don’t you get isolated?

Yes, I do, not very often but overall I find freelancing totally rewarding. At the beginning, I was concerned about the lack of company and struggling to motivate myself while working remotely. I was pleasantly surprised to feel the opposite (well… most of the time). Sometimes it’s a struggle to get motivated without a team around me. You have to be very disciplined to get things done as it is easy to get distracted and extended time of solitude can leave you secluded.

I tackle my motivation by starting my day with a run outside or a training session at the gym. It energizes me and I’m ready to start the day. When I work from home, I’m in contact with clients and team members. Keep connected to your old colleagues by sending the occasional email can lift your spirits and make you go back to your work with renewed energy. It’s a good idea to go for lunch with a friend or colleague. Social interactions are important for self-employed workers to overcome isolation. That’s why when you work on your own, it’s important to just go out of the house, go to a coffee shop or shared workspace from time to time to get some social interaction. What I also like to do is take a walk to get the white noise and just be around other people. It helps to keep me focused and energetic.

Since I’m self-employed, I met a lot of new contacts, while building a good client base.
I don’t work remotely all the time so I don’t really suffer from loneliness. I can say that I work from home 10% of the time and the rest, I work on site with my clients. Working in a variety of environments, gives me the chance to work alongside different teams for a determined period of time.

A freelancing work life can sound exciting at first. There’s no commute during rush hours, you can run an errand anytime without asking, you don’t need to dress a certain way and you’re in control of your own time. Full-time employees crave this kind of flexible work life and they may not understand that the lack of social interactions can become a problem when working from home for an extended period of time. Human beings are social creatures and it’s hard to be successful in complete solitude. When loneliness hits you, get out there, call or message someone because we need each other to be successful and happy.

See you in my next post…

Take care

Never undervalue your worth

This is a topic I wanted to write in my blog for a while and this is the perfect time for me to do so. We’ve been having some issues with the recycling pickup in my borough for the last few weeks. I like to listen to newstalk on the radio while working and this piece of news came on. It appears that the private company in charge of the recycling pickup in my borough, put in a bid too low just to get the contract. When they realised that they were losing money, they started slacking off the service.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/recycling-cdn-ndg-contract-ricova-1.4739542

I don’t work in recycling but as a subcontractor I have to avoid this kind of situation if I want to be able to pay my bills and have a comfortable life. Sometimes it is tempting to bid a bit lower to get a contract or acquire a new client, but not to low. Underselling yourself usually occurs when you voluntarily undervalue yourself in order to appear more attractive to a potential client. It is a dangerous move because it will be hard to get back to your ongoing rate for that new client and that can lead to declining morale and a feeling of resentment. They are as demanding as any other clients and you will get frustrated for working as hard for less money. You will put this client on the back burner in favour for the ones paying the ongoing rate. If you don’t serve this new client as well as the other ones, he will go elsewhere. Not worth underselling in the long run.

A client or company that needs your services, will not necessarily go for the lowest bid. They want quality and a professional service they won’t regret. They are not looking for a bargain. We have seen it only too often, the lowest bid may show a lack of confidence in your abilities for this contract. Or you can come across as poor performer, poor negotiator, with poor self-esteem, or even desperate. Desperation doesn’t sell.

When I first started as a freelancer, I did some research on the ongoing rate for a graphic designer with my level of experience to make sure I rate my services appropriately. I asked around, I went online, I analysed my skills, knowledge, and experience to determine my value and worth in professional terms. It gave me enough information to rightfully charge what I’m worth.

To avoid underselling yourself, get to know your value and what you can bring to the table.

See you in my next post…

How to build a good network

How to build a good network

Congratulations! You decided to join the freelance way of life. Now where do you start?

In order to transition from full-time employee to freelancer as smoothly as possible, it is important to prepare a plan of action and start building a network or expanding an existing one.

It is a good idea to do some research before quitting your full-time position. In my case, my full-time job was abolished and my boss asked me if I would consider freelancing for them and that’s how I got started. Some people already do freelancing while working full-time. Tell your clients that you are going 100% freelance and knowing that there is no schedule restrictions to speak of they may give you more work. You can also ask other freelancers how they got started.

The success of your freelance career will depend on your connections. Clients just don’t appear from nowhere. You have to establish relationships with colleagues (past and present), other freelancers or previous employers who can recommend you. You have to build a network of new contacts. Making new contacts in person, online or in social gatherings is crucial. Every new contact can introduce you to a large number of potential referrals.

In addition to a client based network, you need a network out of your industry. You need contacts in accounting, legal advice and other professionals. I’m a graphic designer so I need a network of printers, web programmers and art directors.

Social network is a great way to build a network. I use LinkedIn a lot, I met old contacts, made new ones, and it works for me. Keep your profile up-to-date, write articles and post your latest projects. Be active and visible on LinkedIn, you will benefit from it.

Don’t waste any time, start building your network and you’ll see it won’t take long before the word is out and people will be contacting you for future contracts.

There are freelance forums online where you can chat with other freelancers

https://www.freelancer.ca/community

https://www.shutterstock.com/blog/freelance-graphic-design-guide

See you in my next post…

 

Is freelancing the right career choice for me?

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If you’re thinking of joining the gig economy or freelance world, many of you probably asked that question. I did. It’s not for everyone but for close to 2 million canadians, it’s a viable choice. Before taking the plunge it is worth looking into the pros and cons of freelance or contract work versus full-time employment.

Which situation is right for you depends on your personality and your capability to deal with what we call the feast & famine cycle. If you don’t like the idea of worrying about the next paycheck, than full-time employment is your best option. Some people prefer the security of a regular income, health benefits, paid vacations and in some cases, a company pension plan.

Freelancing is a good fit for you if; you like working for multiple companies or clients. You don’t stress in a situation of work instability and you are a well organized person the take on your own business tasks (taxes, self promotion, internal and client management). You see a motivating challenge in finding your next gig instead of a cause for concern. Self motivation is an important part for your freelance success.

This infographic demonstrate what you’re getting into.  

https://www.themuse.com/advice/25-surprising-facts-about-freelancing

Now it’s time to decide which career path is right for you. Both scenarios have some positive and negative aspects that make it impossible to say which one is a better fit than the other. It depends entirely on your personality and what you want from your work life.

So make sure to do a good self-evaluation to understand who you are and what you want. After a period of consideration you will be able to see which situation (freelancing or full-time employment) is the best choice for you.

In my next blog we will evaluate the importance of having a good network.

Freelance; a way of life

So three years ago I decided to be a freelance worker or join the gig economy. Scary, right? I was intimidated but also excited with the new challenges taking place with my new situation. The rise of the gig economy is a force to be taken seriously. Freelancing used to be something to do between full-time jobs but now it is a viable, sustainable way to earn a living… a way of life.

The number of freelance workers is rising every year. They are contributing a substantial amount of money to the economy and contract work has become widely accepted as a career.

As a freelancer, I manage my schedule. I get to choose when I take time off, I set aside time to take courses to stay professionally relevant to better serve and keep my clients and most important I can have a good work-life balance. I use my new skills to advertise my services; ex.: maintaining my website, managing my Mailchimp account to send availability notices and I do my own publicity. Freelancing gives me the opportunity to acquire a wider variety of projects from different companies which is also a plus for my portfolio. It’s also an opportunity to work in different environments and meet new people. This way it’s easy to expand my professional network.

In my next post, we will explore ways on how to choose between freelancing or full-time employment.